The History of Roman Baths. How Romans bathed in Ancient Times, and the role that Ancient Roman bath houses played in Roman society. The facilities that these Romans Baths offered included gymnasiums, libraries, sporting arena's and even art galleries as they functioned rather like modern-day community centres.
Despite the two main fundamental parts of the Roman Baths bearing names of Greek origin, the thermae (bathing facilities) and the palastrae (place for exercise), the idea of joining these two together under one roof and adding libraries, galleries with the idea of putting the whole thing at the service of the people was purely a Roman concept. And, it's here where the history of the roman baths started.
These huge public bath houses played an important role in the life of the city, like ancient community centers for the citizens of Rome. The Terme Caracalla (Caracalla Roman Baths) could accommodate up to a thousand and six hundred people at one time. And these Roman Baths were lavishly decorated with precious marbles, and even the basin of the modern day Farnese Fountain was taken directly from these baths.
Taking a Roman Bath, how the Romans bathed in ancient times was a fairly long process that can be broken down into various stages. So, as in the true ancient roman baths, first, visitors would enter small and dry, hot chambers which encouraged sweating. This area was known as the sudatoria.
This area of the Roman Baths continued into larger hot rooms that were moistened by hot tubs of water. These chambers were known as calidariums, and at this stage it was typical to have an attendant of the Baths apply the Strigil ( a form of scraper) an ancient version of skin cleansing in Roman Times.
After the delights of the Strigil, came the cooling down process of a Roman Bath. Bathers would enter the tepidarium ( a room with moderate heat), before plunging into the cold waters of the frigidarium. One of the best examples of a Roman Bath to visit would be the Caracalla Roman Baths which are located near the majority of attractions of ancient Rome.
At the Caracalla Roman Baths, more or less the whole area of the frigidarium was taken up by the swimming pool and its cool waters, with the rest of the space occupied by changing areas at the poolside. While the tepidarium was flanked on either side by exercise areas. Exercise was mainly in the form of ball games or wresting and usually preceded the bathing process.
Originally the Roman Baths were completely open for both sexes to use them at the same time. But, later they were regulated through which ladies bathed before the men, although the exercise areas were allowed to be used simultaneously by either sex.
To understand further the inner-workings of a Roman Bath, beneath the public areas of the baths was a huge underground section made up of servants quarter, furnaces, stoking rooms, storage areas and passageways connecting them. Surround these Roman Baths would be elaborate gardens, stadiums for sport, libraries, shops and arcades where Romans caught up on the latest gossip.